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By Ryan Holiday
November 22, 2017
Mia Fradenburg (http://goheels.com/)
When coach Shaka Smart was interviewed after his team beat North Carolina in a surprise upset last week, what did he say? He didn’t focus on the buzzer beater. Or the strategy. He said his team won because “they followed the process.”
Tony Wroten, a guard for the 76ers, got the same advice from his coaches. “They tell us every game, every day, ‘trust the process.’” John Fox, the coach trying to turn around the Chicago Bears, asked his team the same thing.
But what the hell is it? What is the process?
It can be traced to Nick Saban, the famous coach of LSU and Alabama — perhaps the most dominant dynasty in the history of college football. But he got it from a psychiatry professor named Lionel Rosen during his time at Michigan State.
Rosen’s big insight was this: sports — especially football — are complex. Nobody has enough brainpower or motivation to consistently manage all the variables going on in the course of a season, let alone a game. They think they do — but realistically, they don’t.
There are too many plays, too many players, too many statistics, counter moves, unpredictables, distractions. Over the course of a long playoff season, this adds up into a cognitively impossible load. Meanwhile, as Monte Burke writes in his book Saban, Rosen discovered that the average play in football lasts just seven seconds. Seven seconds — that’s very manageable.
So he posed a question: What if a team concentrated only on what they could manage? What if they took things step by step — not focusing on anything but what was right in front of them and on doing it well?
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